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Blog December 02, 2015

The digital revolution is looking for new leaders

Digitisation is a major change for many organisations and companies. At the same time, a social revolution is under way that is also affecting how organisations form and structure themselves. How do you lead an organisation through a major change such as digitisation, while at the same time the organisational structure is being dismantled and the traditional hierarchy can no longer be relied upon?

There is an important component that is under the radar of the major transformation that we are currently seeing in digitisation. In the technical hype, the spotlight is filled with news about what is technically feasible now or in the near future, and we are almost being tricked into believing that it is only a technical revolution that is on the march. Digitisation is, however, essentially about transformation, where something more than just technology is needed in these enormous changes, and that is leadership.


Leadership that understands the importance of the educational journey that needs to be made in order to lead people from today to tomorrow. Even if it is a technical revolution, transformation is an educational journey, because if you have to lead someone from A to B, not only must you be aware of where A and B are, you must also be able to teach, support and lead the individual to get there.


“In the organisation of the future, the network is the permanent component”


Digitisation is the major technical revolution that is under way, while at the same time the social revolution is changing how knowledge organisations should form and structure themselves. New opportunities are giving rise to increased innovation and competitive strength. Agile methods have long been an attempt to find a more effective way of working, i.e. as knowledge workers rather than a traditional production line. Developments have been under way so long within this area that we have already seen how agile methods have moved from supporting teams to supporting multi-teams, and now finally also how the whole organisation can be agile. One example in this social revolution is the “Holocracy”, which focuses on how a whole organisation takes shape.


Holocracy is a way of thinking neither hierarchy nor a “flat” organisation, but instead adding structure to an organisation that is built as a network of independent teams. This model also includes an approach that involves viewing the organisation as just another product within a business, and developing iteratively it in the same way. There is no hierarchy here, but clear roles, responsibilities and methods of managing change. In the organisation of the future, the network is the permanent component, where the situation determines which organisation you belong to for a specific need. How should leadership be formed in an organisation that works as a network?


“Leadership is therefore no longer a skill that is important for the hierarchy, but something that is important to everyone.”


In a network in which the role of the leader is becoming more fluid and changes according to the task and conditions, there is a need for not just one leader, but several. An independent team and network adapts its leadership according to its task and its members. Leadership is therefore no longer a skill that is important for the hierarchy, but something that is important to everyone. This means that leadership is not just situation-based in a traditional leader-group perspective, but also becomes contextual according to task-member-group. Leadership and development of it thus become equally important for you as an individual, you as a group and in your network.


“We’re facing a leadership deficit in which traditional measures of simply educating and training a few selected individuals within an organisation continue to reinforce this gap.”


Leadership is important in a dual sense, dealing with both the technical revolution (digital transformation) and the social revolution (organisational transformation). To succeed in driving an organisation through the changes associated with digitisation and at the same time into the way an organisation collaborates in the future. This means there is now more than ever a need for leadership within organisations, not only to drive innovation forwards relating to what we do, but also how we get things done.


We’re therefore facing a leadership deficit in which traditional measures of simply educating and training a few selected individuals within an organisation continue to reinforce this gap. So how can leadership be developed in order to adapt the digital working life and organisation of the future?


Three keys along the way:

 

  • Train and educate everyone in “employeeship in a network-based organisation”, in which everyone learns the importance of leadership and assumes situation-based responsibility.
  • Build a continuous, recurring ability to change your organisation and its leadership by managing it just like any other product/service.
  • Create momentum through a “pay it forward” culture in order to scale your leadership change.

 

How much of your investment in time and money is currently spent on developing and increasing leadership in an organisation that has to develop not only the services of the future, but also itself?


Rickard Lööf, Chief Product Officer, Enfo Zipper
In his daily work, Rickard’s drives Enfo Zipper’s innovation work forwards, regardless of whether it involves changing how work is performed or making what is done more efficient. Do you want to find out more about leadership in a changing world and how to lead cross-component teams forwards? Contact rickard.loof@enfo.se